Traditionally, electric bikes might have been seen as exclusively for the ageing cyclist or those with mobility issues. Increasingly, however, they are appealing to a broadening demographic, as people catch on to the multiplicity of other reasons to have one.
As part of my research into the phenomenon of the electric bicycle, I borrowed a bike from Daniel at Pedego Europe to try out for a week. I was curious to see if I could use it, in place of my car and how that would be. Before I moved to the Stroud valleys and lived in flatter terrain, I loved to cycle. Moving to a more rural, hilly setting, I found that my bike was gathering cobwebs in the shed. The reality was, that while I consider myself to be pretty physically fit, the actual thought of arriving sweaty at work after scaling a hill or struggling up an incline with my shopping in a rucksack just didn’t really appeal and I began, with regret, to use my car more and more.
Between me and my place of work, ten miles away, is a very long and steep hill. Now and again you’ll see a brave cyclist defeated by the climb, walking with their bike at the side of the road. I’d never fancied tackling it myself, especially before a hectic day of teaching… so I drive. With the Pedego, I was able to scale the hill with no discomfort at all and my journey took only ten minutes longer than by car. On top of that, I arrived at work feeling invigorated by my journey rather than exhausted or, as is often the case when I drive, still half-asleep. I couldn’t wait to get back on the bike at the end of my day at work; it was so much fun. I felt as if my commute enriched my day rather than being ‘dead’ time. The weekend was even more fun… cycling out to rural pubs for lunch (with my keen cyclist boyfriend struggling to keep up on his expensive racing bike.) Countless people stopped to ask me about the Pedego. It became quite a talking point and its relevance to people from all walks of life became even more apparent.
Following my own I experience, I talked to other Pedego owners to find out about their reasons for choosing an electric bike. I found that the reasons were as diverse as the owners:
After a couple of months with his Pedego trail tracker, 31 year old Pete Jacobs sold his car to go full time electric:
‘I can’t begin to tell you how much it has changed my life,’ he says. ‘It is hard to put into words… but I have no regrets in selling the car. Apart from a few pounds a month to insure it, I don’t have any costs… it’s fun and free.’
Pete uses his bike to travel for his landscaping job in the Stroud area, as well as general transport. Having chosen the trail tracker model, he takes it off road at weekends, for fun.
‘There’s a fitness side to it too. You do sometimes have to work at it so for me, it has been good exercise alongside football and squash. The experience as a whole has been fantastic,’ he adds.
When I ask how he thinks he’ll feel about being car-less through the winter months, he seems un-phased.
‘I’ve bought wind proofs and waterproofs. As long as I have the right gear, I’m sure it won’t change my opinion. This is the future… and it’s green.’
Pete isn’t alone in his choice of an electric bike as his sole mode of transport. Freelance actress and model, Bryony West has always been happier on a bike:
‘I was pretty much cycling before I could walk,’ she says. ‘Over the years, I’ve had all sorts of bikes including trikes and bikes with contraptions on the back to carry kids. I’m not very good in a car. In fact my driving instructor refused to carry on teaching me!’
Bryony decided to look for an electric bike for her commute, while living and working in London.
‘I was doing a 17 mile round trip from Enfield to Highbury and Islington and I wouldn’t have wanted to do that on a normal bike. I feel much safer on the Pedego; If I feel I’m about to be squashed by a lorry, I can zip ahead and out of the way.’
Moving to Suffolk in recent months, Bryony is now using her bike in a functional way for everyday living. She uses her bike for the supermarket shop, travelling to the nearest towns and trips to the pub.
‘Living in the country, people always ask me how on earth I can manage without a car, when actually it’s easier and quicker,’ she says.
Unlike Bryony, Johan Christian Brun was forced into switching to cycling. Christian lives and works in Stavanger, Norway as an engineer. When his company offices moved, parking became restricted and he had to find alternative transport.
‘I started on a manual bike but this didn’t work for me. At 54 I’m not as young as I used to be and my legs were hurting,’ he says.
A year on, Christian is very pleased with the choice he made. He finds his Pedego ‘Comfort Cruiser’ comfortable, fun and easy to ride.
“I like the help the motor gives me and I tell you what, it’s faster to get to work on the bike than to drive because of the congestion,” he adds.
At the younger end of the spectrum, Liam Moore, aged 21, has been using his ‘Comfort Cruiser’ as his sole means of transport for two years.
‘At the time I got it, it was the style of the bike that interested me. I was working seven miles away and used it for the commute as well as a plaything… to visit friends, shops and sporting events.’
‘I love the efficiency of it, the styling and the fact that I can park up anywhere,’ he adds. ‘Stroud is a very hilly area and it’s the perfect tool for getting places without having to sweat.’
So clearly the electric bike isn’t just for older people or those experiencing mobility issues but it can certainly be life changing for those that do. I spoke to an amazing lady who says that her life has been changed by her bright pink and turquoise Pedego ‘Mini Cruiser.’
Jennifer Rowe MBE, will be seventy on her next birthday but is quick to remind me that she doesn’t look it. She received her MBE for service to youth and to the people of Gloucestershire. Describing herself as being quite badly disabled, Jennifer has arthritis, asthma and incurable but treatable cancer. She tried out a Pedego back in June and hasn’t looked back.
‘The arthritis limits me enormously. Just walking the dog a hundred yards means that I’m in agony. On the bike, I can go for miles slowly pedalling and using the motor and it’s actually good for my knees,’ she says.
‘I get an enormous amount of pleasure from cycling. I have a car but it’s not the same… you don’t get to interact in the same way with people. You’re much more in touch with the outdoors on a bicycle as well. In August and September, you could smell the harvest in the air. You don’t notice things like that in a car,’ She adds.
Jennifer says that the main thing for her is the fun she gets from being able to cycle and describes overtaking a lycra clad cyclist, on her way up to Selsley Common, with amusement:
‘He was there struggling and sweating his poor little socks off only to be overtaken by an old biddy, whizzing like there’s no tomorrow. He said something along the lines of ‘blinking heck’ to which I replied-‘It’s ok, I’m mechanised.’ I could hear him laughing as I cycled off ahead.’
So what about the lycra clad cyclist? Would you catch a serious athlete riding an electric bike? It turns out you would…
Winning the Bronze medal at the 2012 Paralympics for the tandem road time trial, James Brown, who is partially sighted, has also competed in thirteen world championships in different sports during his career; including track events, cross country skiing and cycling.
It was in May 2014, while training on a tandem that James had a bad crash and was airlifted to hospital with a broken collar bone and five broken ribs. Not wanting to stay cooped up at home afterwards, he bought his ‘Pedego City Commuter’ for recuperation purposes and now uses it every day.
‘The Pedego allows me to do things I could never do before and the world has opened up. I can’t use a car but now I can jump on the bike and I’ve got a great little trailer for it. On a conventional bike you are quite limited as to what you can carry but the Pedego is robust enough for towing,’ he explains.
A strong advocate of pedal power, James points out that being a professional cyclist doesn’t exclude you from also using an electric bike:
‘I’m very keen to see more bikes on the road. A bike revolution is happening in the UK and I think that electric bikes will offer a significant contribution to an explosion of bike use, for all sorts of reasons.’
Though diverse in age, gender, occupation and location, the people that I have spoken to all share one thing in common; they are all passionate about their electric bikes and talk about their lives being changed by the experience of owning one. Whether they chose one for economic, ecologic, practical or health reasons, or even just for pure enjoyment, they love their bikes. ‘You must get one!’ I keep being told… I’m going to.
By Lara Piper